Reports that the coating on prepaid mobile phone cards contains a substance called "Silver Nitro oxide," that can cause skin cancer appear to be causing fear and panic among some mobile phone users in the country.
The information, which has been making the rounds on some social network platforms and the Internet, in general has generated some controversy, which appears to have further deepened the anxiety of the public.
Examples of the Internet health alert include;
“Dr Brian Berry of the United States has found new cancer in human beings, caused by Silver Nitro Oxide. Whenever you buy recharge cards, don’t scratch with your nails, as it contains Silver Nitro Oxide coating that can cause skin cancer. Share this message with your loved ones”.
“ATTENTION. .....medical research authority of the US have found that new cancer in human beings is caused by 'Silver Nitro Oxide'. Whenever you buy recharge cards or calling cards don't scratch them with your nail as it contains 'silver nitro oxide' coating and can cause skin cancer. Copy and paste this status and spread awareness please”
However, a website; www.hoax-slayer.com, has described the health alert as bogus, saying the coating on scratch tickets (cards) is made of specialised latex inks, which are harmless.
Attempts by The Mirror to find out from the Ministry of Communications whether the government was aware of the alleged health issues associated with the scratch cards was not successful as an official referred this reporter to the National Communications Authority (NCA).
“I have also heard that the coating on the scratch cards may cause health problems but we have no information on the matter, so please speak to officials at the NCA,” the official said on phone. However, calls to the NCA were not returned.
When contacted, the Head of Corporate Communications at Airtel, Mr Donald Gwira said his company had no information on the issue, “So I cannot make any comments”.
MTN also did not have any comments on the matter, when contacted.
However, the Head of Public Relations at Globacom Ghana (Glo), Mr Ekow Quarcoo, said, “The scratchable coating on our top-up cards are neither toxic nor hazardous. The coating is a rubberised ink used for that purpose worldwide”.
In an emailed statement to The Mirror, Mr Quarcoo said all the company’s scratch-cards were produced locally (in Ghana) and the vendor who manufactures them confirms that the coating is nothing but harmless scrachable ink”.
“However, it is advisable, says our vendor, to scratch with a coin rather than with the fingernails because once scratched, the coating is just as bad as dirt and can be harmful in as far as dirt trapped in one’s fingernails is harmful. In other words, once it has been scratched off the card, the coating is as bad as any other form of dirt”.
In that context, he said, it was simply not hygienic to scratch with the fingernails and people are advised to desist from doing so.
Written by By William A. Asiedu